Londoners sleeping rough will be given vital protection from coronavirus as the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, with support from the Government, secured 300 hotel rooms in which they can self-isolate over the coming weeks.
The Mayor’s team has worked with Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) to block-book the rooms in two London hotels for the next 12 weeks.
Over Friday and the weekend, as part of a trial period, rough sleepers who are already known to the homelessness charities supported by the Mayor will be moved to the rooms.
City Hall will then continue to work with a range of partners, including London’s boroughs and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, to identify others sleeping rough and ensure everyone gets the support they need. The Mayor’s emergency response is being provided with the backing of the Government, which – with the Mayor – has provided funding to kickstart this work.
The Mayor’s team is also working with black cab drivers, via hailing apps FreeNow and Gett, who have volunteered to help transport people between support services.
Rough sleepers are significantly more likely to have underlying health conditions – including respiratory problems – than the wider population.
They are also far less likely to be able to follow Public Health England advice, such as self-isolation, social distancing and handwashing. Much existing accommodation available to rough sleepers, while vitally important, is unsuitable for self-isolation.
The rooms are being provided at a substantially discounted rate. This forms part of the Mayor’s and the Government’s wider efforts to protect rough sleepers during this difficult time – his team will continue to work with IHG and other hotel operators to see if further such block-bookings will be possible as and when they are needed.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “The coronavirus outbreak affects everyone in London and we must do all we can to safeguard everyone’s health – not least those Londoners who face spending each night sleeping rough on the capital’s streets.
“Rough sleepers already face difficult and uncertain lives and I’m determined to do all I can to ensure they, along with all Londoners, are given the best protection possible.
“My heartfelt thanks go to InterContinental Hotels Group for stepping up and playing their part in helping protect rough sleepers during this difficult period.
“We are also very grateful to the black cab drivers from FreeNow and Gett who have offered to transport rough sleepers to these rooms, helping them to avoid using public transport.
“Together, as a city, we will come through this incredibly challenging period.”
The Secretary of State for Housing, Robert Jenrick MP, said: “We must be vigilant in the fight against coronavirus. While it poses a threat to all of us, there is a danger of it disproportionally affecting the most vulnerable people in our society, especially rough sleepers.
“That is why my officials will be working very closely with the GLA to ensure that rough sleepers get the support they need to remain safe and secure at this difficult time.”
The Prime Ministers Rough Sleeping Adviser, Dame Louise Casey, said: “I would like to thank the London Mayor and the Secretary of State for their support in getting everyone in. It is so important that we properly support all vulnerable during this difficult time including people that are sleeping rough.”
Managing Director, UK&I for InterContinental Hotels Group – owners of the Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express and Crowne Plaza brands, Karan Khanna, said: “The current situation is unprecedented and people’s health and wellbeing must be the top priority. We are pleased to be working closely with the Mayor’s office and GLA to use our hotels to contribute to the recovery effort in London.”
Director of Rough Sleeping services at St Mungo’s, Petra Salva, said: “Our teams are working round the clock to support all people sleeping rough into emergency rooms where they can isolate and be kept safe during this unprecedented crisis.
“We are pleased to be working with the Mayor and partners on this vital additional accommodation. Once inside, we will also be working with people on longer term options available to them, including housing, health support and job opportunities, depending on their situations.
“But first and foremost, I’d continue to urge anyone who is concerned about someone sleeping rough to refer them via StreetLink to help connect them with local services, or to call 999 in a health emergency.”
General Secretary at Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, Steve McNamara, said: "London cabbies have always been there to help those in need, and this current crisis is no different. Black cabs are the right vehicles for this, designed to be easily cleaned and sterilised, with a partition separating passengers from drivers. I'm delighted so many black cab drivers have signed up, and that we are doing our bit to keep the most vulnerable people on our streets safe."
London Councils’ Executive Member for Housing & Planning, Cllr Darren Rodwell, said: “London faces both the highest number of coronavirus cases and the highest levels of homelessness in the country. Boroughs are working flat out to support rough sleepers, but there’s a severe shortage of suitable accommodation. This is a crucial initiative and boroughs will continue working with the Mayor and other partners to secure desperately needed rooms during the Covid-19 emergency.”
For more information about the Mayor’s efforts to tackle homelessness, see: https://www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/housing-and-land/homelessness
- 8,885 people were seen rough sleeping in London during 2018/19.
- Around 1,100 people were sleeping rough in London on a single night in autumn 2019.